Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Winter (11/14/05)
TITLE: Beauty In The Winter
By Yvonne Oshiobugie
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Clarisse heard the sound of the chair at the background of a hissing boiling pot and she was almost screaming from the top of her lungs, asking whichever of her twelve year old twins on the chair to get off.
Then, she remembered.
Maria was home.
Clarisse paused, taking time to watch the frail figure seated in the balcony.
From the kitchen window Clarisse could only catch a glimpse of the seesaw motion of a grey head that moved rhythmically to the squeaks of the rocking chair.
Maria Roberts. Her mother.
Clarisse could almost see Maria, years ago – dusting, cleaning, cooking, everywhere at the same time, caring for a husband and four rapidly growing children, spanking a hand that had greedily lurched into the soup bowl or giving someone a desperately needed hug. Maria had been wonderful.
Clarisse’s eyes dropped a tear.
Any minute from now, the doctor had said. It was a matter of days, or hours, or even minutes...
Clarisse tried not to think of it.
Maria was dying.
Maria did nothing much these days – except eat, sleep and rock her chair.
It was punishment for Clarisse to see her mother, an epitome of womanhood sentenced to rocking a chair.
Clarisse put the finishing touches to the meal and carried it on a tray to her mother.
It was Maria’s favourite and Clarisse had prepared it knowing very well it could be Maria’s last.
“Here, mum, eat.”
Maria was looking at the blanket of snow that covered the street like a plain white sheet of paper. “I love the snow…” Maria drew in her breath, pausing as she let her eyes wander in fascination over a sight she had seen too many times to count. “I have always loved the winter…”
Clarisse hated it. The winter would always remind Clarisse of dying, sickness and sadness. Her father had died last winter.
“Be happy for me because I am going to a place that He has set aside for me…”
“Then tell him not to take you away,” Clarisse began like a child selfishly seeking its mother’s attention.
Clarisse had misgivings about the God her mother served but this was neither the time nor the place to bring up the God-issue. “I still need you here with me…” She grasped unto Maria’s hand possessively, feeling its warmth and wanting to hold her, just as she had done as a little girl.
“Surely you know I can’t live forever, don’t you?” Maria looked at her. “I’ve lived my life to its fullest,” Maria’s smile widened, her eyes suddenly glowering as she remembered her past. “I have had my spring, my summer, my autumn and now I must face my winter…"
Clarisse was stung with a fresh bout of tears and she blinked them away and looked at her mother’s untouched food. “Try to eat something mum…”
Maria turned her head away from the plate. Clarisse had seen the gesture too often and she knew what it meant. Maria had no desire for food. She wanted to talk.
“There are always seasons in life…” Maria went on. “God created them that way…” Her eyes rested on her daughter’s. “Clarisse, you have so much ahead of you… your children would soon become adults and move on… and you’ll have to prepare for your winter…”
The confusion on Clarisse’s face eased as Maria continued.
“Winter does not come only with age, but also with situations…” A wrinked hand squeezed Clarisse. “You have to know He’s always with you, even during the snow-storms and dryness… and only then, can you truly find the beauty in the winter.”
Clarisse did not know how long she sat there, holding her mother’s hand. She looked at the richness of the snow, and how it spread across the land. There were no trees, no growth, and yet, there was something beautiful about it. Maria had been right. For the first time after forty winters, Clarisse was seeing it for the first time.
“Mum…” Clarisse turned to her mother to share her amazing discovery. She drew in a sharp breath.
Maria Roberts had died quietly, leaving behind a soft smile on her face.
It started snowing again.
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